The city of Lexington is not a sanctuary city for those in the country illegally, Lexington city officials said Monday.
A sanctuary city or county is a jurisdiction with a local ordinance that prohibits police from prosecuting people solely for being undocumented in the United States. The merged government has never passed such a policy, said Ronnie Bastin, Lexington’s public safety commissioner. Bastin is a former Lexington police chief.
“The sanctuary city term generally applies to cities that have passed ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about an individual’s immigration status,” Bastin said. “We have no such ordinance.”
According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency data originally obtained by the Texas Tribune and highly cited elsewhere, no cities or counties in Kentucky have passed ordinances that prohibit local enforcement from asking someone about their immigration status.
Los Angeles passed such an ordinance in 1979. It and other sanctuary cities with similar policies have pledged to protect undocumented immigrants in the face of Trump’s crackdown. Los Angeles has set aside $10 million to pay legal fees for immigrants facing deportation. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has created a legal defense fund.
In Fayette County, the county asks for identification papers when someone is booked at the Fayette County jail. ICE has access to all of those records, and the jail has a separate desk at booking where immigration officials can work, Bastin said.
“We fingerprint everyone who is booked into the jail and conduct a criminal history check. We contact ICE in cases where citizenship is in question,” Bastin said. “In 2016, we had 240 ICE detainees at the jail.”
Since Trump’s executive order was issued last week, some immigration attorneys and advocates have cautioned undocumented immigrants to limit interactions with police.
A person’s immigration status is not checked unless they are charged with a crime. Immigration enforcement is a federal issue not a local one, Bastin said. “We have no plans to change our policies unless we are required to do so by federal law,” he said.
“From the police perspective, the question of legal status does not play a role in determining if a violation or criminal act has occurred,” he said. “We evaluate those on the acts of the individual, not the status of the offender. We also do not use it as a factor in reporting a crime or providing assistance to the victim of a crime. Our focus has and continues to be the protection of all people equally and insuring they have equal protection and services.”